Unilever the food company is suing a company based in California that used “Mayo” in the name for its sandwich spread. The food giant says that dictionaries and federal regulators give mayonnaise a definition as a spread containing eggs.
The lawsuit cites false advertising by Hampton Creek for its labeling of “Just Mayo” its product that is plant based.
Unilever in its complaint that was filed in a federal court says that mayo implies the product is actually mayonnaise, and Hellmann’s is losing market share from Just Mayo.
The complaint added that there is an expectation of what mayonnaise should be both in taste and in performance and Just Mayo has neither.
Josh Tetrick the CEO at Hampton Creek said the company is not attempting to mislead any consumer. Its focus is on using plants to help create everyday food products that are better.
He added that today mayo, tomorrow cookie and then pasta, maybe there would be big pasta and big cookie suits against the company next year.
Tetrick also noted that the label for Just Mayo states that the product is egg free. The label also has an egg with a plant that is growing near it, which the Hampton CEO said is how they show that they use a plant and not eggs.
Unilever, which sells Best Food brand as well, holds the largest share of the mayonnaise market in the U.S. estimated to be worthier close to $2 billion in annual sales. That is over two times the size of the market for ketchup.
A professor of marketing hired by the company, surveyed consumers online and found that over half thought that Just Mayo was a mayonnaise when seeing the label.
The professor in a document filed with the court said that 822 consumer had participated in his research.
Just Mayo started sales in early 2014 as Hampton Creek’s first product. The company is a startup based in San Francisco that touts it has the backing of Bill Gates the founder of Microsoft and Li Ka-shing, the wealthiest person in Asia.
The spread can be purchased at Whole Foods, Dollar Tree as well as Kroger stores, amongst other locations.
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